by: Paulanne Simmons
Although Jack Canfora’s new play, Jericho, is set in 2005, his characters are still suffering from the after effects of 9/11. Beth (Eleanor Handley), whose husband, Alec (Kevin Isola), died in the attack, cannot form relationships with men and has periodic conversations with Alec. Josh (Noel Joseph Allain), who escaped from the towers, has turned toward his Jewish faith for consolation but at the same time is abandoning his wife, Jessica (Carol Todd).
In the real world Beth and Josh might meet in a support group. But in Jericho (named after the town on Long Island and only symbolically after the biblical city), they meet because Beth is dating Josh’s brother, Ethan (Andrew Rein), an amiable young man who wants more than she is currently able to deliver.
The characters’ various struggles come to a head during Thanksgiving dinner at the Jericho home of Josh and Ethan’s mother, Rachel (Jill Eikenberry). During this scene (spread over two acts), Rachel reveals that she is planning on selling the house, preferably to Josh and Jessica, and moving to Florida. Jessica gets very drunk and tells Josh how he has destroyed her life. And Josh and Beth realize they may be wounded in similar ways.
The best part of Jericho is Jill Eikenberry, who is sweet and believable as Josh and Ethan’s mother, Rachel, and works heroically to put the typical Jewish mother in a favorable light. The rest of the cast and director Evan Bergman struggle with a script that desperately needs something more to happen than endless talk.
Jericho is filled with ideas – ideas about 9/11, ethnicity, guilt, family ties, and possibly much more. What it doesn’t have is interesting characters in a dramatic situation. If nothing really happens in this play, the audience is never led to expect that is even a possibility.
From her very first conversations with Dr. Kim Isola, it’s obvious that Beth is not ready for a relationship, and even if she were, her initial conversation with Ethan is not promising. As for Josh, from the first moment he is seen onstage, it is apparent that he is alienated from his wife and seeking salvation in Israel.
Canfora’s new play is thought-provoking for those interested in ideas, but it is not very engaging for those interested in people.
*Photos Carol Rosegg
Produced by The Directors Company – Through Nov. 3 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59 Street, between Park and Madison (212) 279-4200 or 59e59.org.